ONLINE DATING SAFETY TIPS

ONLINE DATING SAFETY TIPS

IT’S WISE TO PLAY IT SAFE: [IMPORTANT] ADVICE FOR PROTECTING YOUSELF ONLINE AND OFF

By Samantha Brewer

Onlinedating can be a lot of fun. We get that little email “ding” meaningsomeone’s checked us out and wants to meet. Or we roam the profiles ofpossible matches to see who generates a spark. There’s a whole world ofpossibilities but it’s anonymous until we turn it into a personalconnection. Just like the offline universe, it has its share ofdangers. While women have special concerns about safety (more on thisbelow), both sexes can benefit by following commonsense approaches todating online.

The most fundamental advice is to go slow onrevealing personal information. Online dating allows us to get to knowa lot about people before we meet them but this can give us a falsesense of security. The chance we’ll expose ourselves to danger beginswith the way we present ourselves online.

USERNAMES AND PROFILES

Nothinggood is achieved with a username or headlines that are overly sexual orsuggestive. They’re an invitation that may attract the wrong kind ofattention and they set a tone that encourages inappropriate behavior.Avoid this in your choice of username and headline, and be extremelywary when you come across it in another.

 Make sure your profile doesn’t reveal contactinformation or easily identifiable personal details. There’s no need tooffer specific information about where you live or work. Describe yourlocation in a general way if possible. The name of the big city youlive in or near is sufficient; you don’t have to identify the suburb orneighborhood.

Of course you should also keep in mind that theglowing profile of someone you’re checking out also has an anonymousauthor. It may go well beyond the standard array of modestexaggerations and provide patently false information. For example,surveys suggest that between ten and thirty percent of the people usingonline dating services are married.

THE ONLINE DATING CONNECTION and COMMUNICATION BEGIN

So you’ve winked at each other, one of you has openedthe conversation and you’ve checked out his or her profile. It lookspromising; a little excitement is in the air as you begin communicatingonline. This is not a time to let your guard down.

Continue to be careful about providing detailedpersonal information address, e-mail and phone number. If you gooffsite to further the communication, use an email account that doesn’tidentify you. Some people open an account solely for dating by usingone of the free services. During these exchanges it’s time to ask for arecent photo if you haven’t already seen one.

There are ways to check people out online and there’snothing wrong with using them. Stop the dating conversation at any timeif you uncover disturbing or misleading or conflicting information orfeel uncomfortable or uneasy. Any mention of a loan, or asking formoney, from one of the YOUAND.ME members, will be treated as a scamand you should end the correspondence. Youand.me is determined to keepits site as safe as possible and you’re encouraged to report anyexamples of abuse.

SO YOU’VE GONE OVER TO VOICE

Safety experts often suggest using a public phone forearly conversations and recommend giving out your cell phone numberrather than your work or home number. Voice contact is an opportunityto get to know someone better, and we recommend using youand.me’s phonechat and video chat. Instead of reading text we get to hear the otherperson’s voice—and that can tell us a lot.

We can learn from the tone of a person’s voice andtheir unrehearsed response to questions. Are they vague in theiranswers or even avoid answering at all? Are there inconsistencies,inappropriate suggestions or flashes of anger? Do calls only happen atodd hours or in hushed tones? Listen to your instincts. Better safethan sorry.

A WOMAN’S FIRST DATE

Well, it’s that time. After all, the point is to getto meet someone and connect in person. While we need to be vigilantabout safety issues they needn’t stand in the way of meeting up inperson.

First dates raise particular concerns for women, ofcourse, and the advice to be cautious about revealing too much personalinformation certainly applies. Here’s a quick checklist of sensibleprecautions.

 • The date should take place in a familiar public setting.

• Tell someone about where, when and with whom you’re meeting up.

• Arrange your own transportation—there and back.

• Bring money for emergencies and be prepared to go “Dutch.”

• Bring your cell phone. (Turn the ringer off; it’s for outgoing help.)

• Stay sober. And don’t stay out too late.

• Don’t leave your personal belongings unattended and order a new drink if your last one has been out of sight.

• Refuse to be pressured in any way.

 There’s every chance the first date will turn outwell. It’s often fun getting to know someone new. It can set us off ondelectable fantasies and exhilarating hopes for the future. But itdoesn’t and probably shouldn’t happen too quickly. As excited as we maybe about a new love interest, there’s a world of tomorrows to lookforward to. Savor these early, getting-to-know-you times; they’re apart of the relationship that only happens once.

A NOTE TO MEN ABOUT WOMEN AND SAFETY

There’s no reason to be offended by the attentionwomen place on safety. In fact, there’s a bonus in it for you (seebelow). Most women understand that the majority of men are considerateand not out to harm them, but this is one of those situations where afew bad apples spoil the crop. Women have deep, hard-wired instinctsfor self preservation and it’s a fact of nature that women can bephysically vulnerable. Many have had unpleasant or even dangerousencounters, been harassed, even stalked.

Conveying a sense of security and trust can deliverbig dividends for men. Make your date feel safe. Trust can open thefloodgates for a woman. Feeling safe and secure and trusting thesituation she’s in frees a woman to be herself, allowing her to let go.You’ll both come out winners.

 The online dating world is filled with enchantingpossibilities. Keep common sense safety issues in mind. Trust your gutinstincts. And let the adventure begin!

 Samantha Brewer is a researcher and freelance writer specializing in modern dating and relationship topics.